The Wall Street Journal says that Wal-Mart is getting the word out to employees that electing Barack Obama would be bad for business and increase the likelihood of unions taking over in the companies stores. Both of these changes would be hazardous to employees’ future job prospects, the company insinuates.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.
According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.
Unions, after all, are formed with the sole intent of obtaining a higher-than-market wage for its members. Assuming a free market, by definition no worker can be exploited, in socialist parlance, because jobs pay a wage that equals the value of the work.
True, the American job market is not completely free. However, it is more free in the absence of unions than it is in their presence. I have been a union employee on two occasions in the past. Both times I observed with crystalline clarity the defects of the union system:
- Employees feeling they are entitled to their job
- Consequent poor performance
- Poor quality work
- Lack of respect for company and management
- Belligerent, legalistic behavior on the job
- Wages paid disproportionate to value provided
These are hard, incontrovertible facts observed in the work place that, IMO, cannot be denied. So Wal-Mart is supposed to simply roll over and allow employees to dictate terms by force, which is what a union demand is, in its naked form?
Despite its massive profits and hefty responsibility as an employer, Wal-Mart has done little to improve the lives of its employees. Wages at the company have actually declined since 2004, and the company’s political involvement shows its commitment to keeping wages low.
What “hefty responsibility” does an employer actually have to an employee? There are many, actually, but pay increases of the desired amount and the provision of an arbitrarily-defined standard of living are not among them.
It should go without saying that an employer’s first responsibility is to its owners, namely to make maximum profits over the long haul. To stay in business, in other words, and do better than the competition while operating within the law. Second, employers are obligated to take excellent care of key employees. Not out of altruism but rather to serve the first responsibility. Third, a corporation is responsible for meeting the commitments it chooses to make to its employees, whether integral or dime-a-dozen. Payroll is to be timely and accurate, benefits to be provided as promised, etc.
Unions attempt to add additional obligations to companies via the collective bargaining arrangement. In doing so they create barriers to employment and termination. Good people cannot be hired if they refuse to join the union or are blackballed for whatever reason. Bad employees cannot be fired, even for cause, because of the union. The bad character of union shops is almost mythical and for good reason.
If Wal-Mart’s employees are so miserable they should simply quit and find other jobs or start their own small businesses. Wal-Mart was built by a single man – the next big company could easily be created by a Wal-Mart cast off, though that possibility would be diminished greatly by the unionization of the company.
Truth is many Wal-Mart employees are happy in their work. I know a friend of mine, a man in his mid-50s, has turned down several other opportunities to continue working there as a common, ordinary employee. He likes it. Period.
Barack Obama would probably not be a disaster for Wal-Mart. But McCain would be better for America and for the company. Why not just say so?